Greek Gods in the Trojan War

In Homers The Iliad the roles of the Greek gods and goddesses in the Trojan War often involve the death and treachery of mortals. The gods usually decide who dies and who lives, and they determine the mental will of a person, but ultimately it is Fate that governs what happens to an individual. Only thinking of themselves, the immortal gods cannot relate to death or human affairs and often give little thought to the value of human life. The gods and goddesses influence on the life of mortals, whether it is deciding the victor of a battle, the winner of a race, or fulfillment of ones destiny, never strays from the characters inevitable Fate.

The gods of The Iliad play a crucial role in determining later happenings or the fulfillment of mortal destinies. A mortals Fate dictates his entire life, everything important he will do is already set, it is only how and when he does these things that the gods control.

Because of this plan the gods must keep everything together by balancing their own actions and the mortals. When Agamemnon will not return Chrysies Apollo sets a plague upon the Achaeans. Because it is prophesied that Troy will fall, Hera must intervene through Calchas the seer to prevent the archer-god from decimating the Achaean army. Also, when Achilles is about to kill Agamemnon, Athena [leaves] from heavenin hopes of bringing [Achilles] to his senses (Homer 28). She could not let Achilles kill Agamemnon or it would change the chain of events leading up to the incredible wrath Achilles brings upon the Trojans.

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The intervention of the gods can decides how a battle develops, whether or not certain warriors will live or die, and how those who perish will do so. The selfishness of the gods drives them to manipulate a situation in order to achieve an outcome that is satisfactory to them. They can do this by giving power to a person or group, dealing death to a person, or altering opinions or feelings. In one battle a spear is hurled at Odysseus, but Pallas Athena would not let it run into his flesh because she knows it is not his fate to die in the Trojan War (Homer 209). The gods must always comply with a mortal’s fate, so even if Athena had not seen the battle and missed the fatal spear another god would have saved Odysseus.

Although sometimes the gods are pleased with a mortals fate and gladly aid them, there are times when a god is reluctant to allow a mortals fate to be carried out. When Zeus realizes that his son, Sarpedon, is to be killed by Patroclus, he has two minds to snatch him up and set him down alive in the rich lands of Lyciaor let him fall to [Patroclus] (304). Zeus wishes he could stop his sons death, but even as a mighty immortal god, he must not interfere with Fate. Sometimes the gods may become overzealous in their control over humans, and try to change Fate, but however hard they try they simply cannot change a mortals destiny.

For example, Hera seduces Zeus and lulls him into a slumber with the help of Sleep. She tries to distract Zeus so that she can alter the outcome of the war and the destinies of Achilles, Hector, and of both armies. This mistake could have been a great tragedy and caused many unneeded deaths. Heras actions anger Zeus, but selfish Hera cares little about her mistake, further exemplifying how she doesnt really care for the mortals but really only for herself and her own satisfaction.

In comparison to the severe decisions of life and death in battle, the gods also play a part in games and less serious competition. In the games following the funeral of Patroclus, the gods show that they will show mercy and favoritism if one of the mortals prays to them. In the race between Aias and Odysseus, Odysseus lifted up a silent prayer to Athene of the Flashing Eyes, [saying] hear me, goddess. I need your valuable aid. Come down and speed my feet (Homer 433). By allowing Odysseus to take the lead and win, Athena shows her favoritism toward Odysseus once again.

Although the gods usually value skill and ability, they are sometimes so vain that they will even let the better man loose simply because he did not lift up a sacrifice to them. Apollos extreme pride is exemplified when Achilles holds an archery challenge. Tuecer and Meriones are chosen to compete in the contest, but because he had forgotten to promise [Apollo] a pleasing sacrifice of firstling lambs Apollo does not allow him to hit the target (435). Along with requiring prayers and sacrifices to help a mortal succeed, some times the gods will take matters into their own hands for nothing more than self-enjoyment. In this manner, both Athena and Apollo use their power to foul the other mortals so that their favorite can win the chariot race.

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Greek Gods in the Trojan War. (2023, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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